Johnson The Ghost Map Analysis

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Johnson’s “The Ghost Map” gives a very detailed narrative of life in London during the mid-1850’s. We see a city full of growth on a massive scale. The population was growing exponentially, industrial technology allowed supply to keep up with demand, and Victorian ideas were bustling through the streets. However, the waste from this massive growth was piling up just as fast. London became the largest city in Europe all the while creating a breeding ground for disease. Johnson’s view of London allows us to critically examine the similarity and differences with other urban areas 150 years later. Political, social, and economic agendas within these urban areas have evolved as well. The accounts of John Snow and Henry Whitehead show how new ideas…show more content…
People were classified socially and financially and prejudices were placed on them based on this classification. People that fell to the bottom of this social hierarchy were often degraded as a group. When the outbreak began, Londoners searched for a reason behind it. Seeing that most of the people affected were the lower class, many concluded that the victims simply deserved this for living a filthy life. “That selective attack appeared to confirm every elitist cliché in the book: the plague attacking the debauched and the destitute, while passing over the better sort that lived only blocks away” (20). This quote from Johnson showed how people viewed the social hierarchy, especially the suffering lower class. No sympathy was given and there was little time for it. This prejudice became a coping mechanism for the elite. Some even cited God as the reason for the outbreak as He was punishing the victims for living filthy lives or having “poor internal constitution”. This theory even affected the scientific community with the acceptance of the miasma theory of disease. Most doctors, aside from Snow, believed the theory at the time. This collective acceptance only hindered the discovery of a cure and pushed the elitist view of social status further. “Raw social prejudice also played a role…the miasma theory was regularly invoked to justify all sorts of groundless class and ethnic biases.” (132). This quote from Johnson shows just how important the social class was at rationalizing seemingly unrelated things such as disease. This structure affected society so much that scientific studies and medicine were based on things such as the smell of a person. The unconscious acceptance of this class structure fueled the growth of the cholera outbreak because people refused to investigate real issues such as microbial biology and they focused on biases that may have been weakly correlated but could be
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